Monday, August 21, 2006

Take Five ~ A Forced Change

Without going into much detail about my students, I am so humbled watching my almost deaf student raise his hand to comment, watch his sign language interpreter as well as me, and be right in there laughing at my silly comments. Student-centered learning is completely his world. He has had to adapt lessons his whole schooling and now does it with ease. I find myself slowing down, making certain that I give more visual cues, visual notes, and more opportunities for not only this student, but others to find meaning in my messages. I know I have only had 2 full days of class, but even with just this focus, I am making my classes more constructivist. I don't need to spew out information for my students, partially because I am worried he will miss it, but more importantly, because they need to create connections. I will steer them in the direction needed, but as I saw just today in teaching inductive thinking, students get it. When given the opportunity to stretch themselves, to take specifics and make generalizations, they can...and do.

I am so thankful that I have this special needs student in my class. It has forced me to think about my instruction, and to change it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Take Five--Grading Categories Downsized

I am already seeing the fruit of adding more colleagues to our curriculum innovation team; so many great conversations, strong focus on student-led learning, and the grading discussion. Lauren visited with me on how she is handling her English 10, English Lit. and Creative Writing classes in regards to categories. She structured her categories after Tony Winger's, of course aligning them with English curriculum. I loved her ideas and weight for each category. I am using her very ones and feel a lightened load as I go from 13 categories to 4. And, not only is it a benefit for me, the conversation is so focused on the skills and content that it will be evident a students weakness, or an overall struggle. I am excited to this year's parent/teacher conferences to see the change in our grades discussion. Thanks Lauren for sharing!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Take Five--Philosophy of Education

My philosophy is broadening. Early in my career, I wrote my philosophy to challenge students, to plant the seed (cliche as it is) so that they become life-learners, and to create empathetic students. I still adhere to those believes and feel strengthened in their mantras. It drives me to change my lessons every year. What I have added that I feel so passionately about is trying (even if in small ways) to prepare my students for their future. I feel that so few of our students will be English majors, but that thinking, engaging with text, analyzing text, and writing about it, is certainly found in any major. I am constantly online searching universities for their writing programs, what's required in say, the business department (in regards to writing), etc. I am amazed at what our students will be asked of and think that we can press beyond what literature has to offer and enrich the text through real-world connections.

Personally, I also have changed my philosophy to include me. I want to continue to learn, to stretch myself, to find new ways to teach a thesis statement, to find news sparks of interest engaging students in a text, etc. I want to find ways to engage myself. I find myself frustrated at times at the unkind words thrown at colleagues, the patronizing words dripped onto new teachers...or new ideas, but I also find myself excited, becoming a learner all over again. I want to stretch myself the way I am asking my students to do so.

A paradigm shift, no, but a gathering of tools, resources to ignite the desire to stay an educator, is all part of my philosophy of education.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

An easy way to get your pictures on Blogger!

How COOL! I started using, a free software program you download onto your computer, hosted by Google that will find all the pictures you have on your computer and allows you to organize them. Plus, the newest feature I realized was there is an eBlogger button. You simply click it and it will navigate you to the blogger page, where you sign in, choose the blog you want (if you have more than one blog), type an entry and immediately publish. I love it.

This is the cookie cake we had at Carter's 7th b-day party at our pool. This treat is shared now with everyone...was a cool tool. Posted by Picasa

A Small Book, but Huge Impact

Attending the AP training afforded me the additional reading opportunity (as if I needed yet another book to frantically read before August 17th!), but this book holds the pedagogy I learned at the AP Institute from our speaker Jeff House, but lessons and sample writing that I hope other English teachers will take time to read. Included in the back is a CD with all his material. Excellent! Several key points Jeff made that really resonated regarding Honors and AP classes:
1) slow down...give up some of the literature to really discuss deeply what students are reading...they love literature, let's not kill it!
2) allow for various types of is essential for college, for life careers, AND the AP test does ask students to relate reading to life, so they better know how to analyze literature through various modes (exmples and theory discussed in his book)--literary analysis (aka the 5 paragraph essay is stifling and not true to The New Yorker, The Times, or any other modern piece of writing
3) skill-based learning is the ONLY way to really address students' needs and to assess what they are learning

I will pass on this book to any takers; it's wonderful.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The AP Institute

I am attending the conference at Cherry Creek High School for the Non-AP teachers and again am amazed, energized, and so filled with ideas. The speaker, Jeff House, is a published author, plus a current high school teacher with 28 years of experience behind his ideas. He is imparting 2 ideas that I just love and think we need more of in my class, and at AHS.

1. skills-based instruction -- He proposes the idea that fits so well with where our administration at the district level is moving to, that we need to focus on teaching skills INSTEAD of products (papers, tests, quizzes, projects, etc.). Amen! I am right there with him. I know my shift I started making this year had immediate impact and I noticed a change in the conversation with kids, parents, and colleagues. I know I have so much to learn, but it was nice to hear his reasoning as well.

2. inductive thinking -- This part has been incredible. I teach inferential leaps with literature, but he extends this in 5 types of analysis and proposes that every piece of writing we do is inductive. He showed us how to make students aware of this and how to create writing that showcases and pulls from their evidence and understandings. He showed how we teach the thesis statement backwards. Wow! What an epiphany for a room full of English teachers. We were skeptical, but soon saw the wisdom, not only through his lectures, but through 2 days of practicing it as students.

There are two other teachers from Heritage High School in the session and as always love the collegiality of conferences.

My summer has whittled away and I feel I have witnessed the shortest summer I've had yet, but I do not regret my experiences and time devoted to school. I know I am a better teacher even before I step inside the four white walls in the center of Arapahoe.